Monthly Archives: December 2010

Back to basics on global warming

Environmentalists, scientists and lawmakers concerned about global warming are going back to basics: persuading the public that the problem is real, Darren Samuelsohn reports at Politico. Thanks to factors such as the “Climategate” imbroglio and the political ascension of climate change skeptics, the issue has dropped off the radar for many Americans. In a recent survey, the Yale Project on Climate Change found that the number of people in the United States who believe in global warming fell from 71 percent to 56 percent between 2008 and 2010. As part of the effort to build support for climate change action, advocates are trying to drive home locally relevant lessons, Samuelsohn says. Sen. Joe Lieberman, co-author of several unsuccessful climate bills over the last decade, cites studies showing lobster and winter flounder moving north out of Long Island Sound. Continue Reading →

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East Hartford mayor to take over DMV

East Hartford Mayor Melody A. Currey, Gov.-elect Dan Malloy’s choice to head the state Department of Motor Vehicles, said Thursday she is taking over with the goal of making the much-maligned agency more streamlined and efficient. “My marching orders are very direct: Make sure the customer is taken care of and make sure we do it in an efficient and effective manner and as fiscally conservative as possible,” Currey said after Malloy announced her appointment. Malloy said he would like Currey to help move the DMV in a direction that would allow state residents to be able to do more online at home or at more convenient locations. “In a perfect world she would put herself out of business,” he said, adding it’s a “real possibility” that the agency could be merged with another state agency or their functions outsourced to other providers down the road. East Hartford Mayor Melody Currey after announcement of her selection as Gov.-elect Dan Malloy’s DMV chief
 
Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, said earlier this week he supports eliminating the DMV. Continue Reading →

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Rising e-commerce could force watershed sales tax debate

Connecticut and most other states have watched for much of the past decade as Internet retail transactions increasingly have cut into their sales tax collections. Though consumers here always have been required to pay tax on their online purchases, political pressures, a lack of direction from the federal government and even legal challenges from Internet retail giants have stalled efforts to collect that money. But with a record-setting, $3.67 billion budget deficit looming just six months away, and new data showing online sales are bouncing back quickly from the recession, Connecticut officials may have no choice in the coming legislative session but to pursue a pot of online taxes possibly worth nearly $50 million per year. “We can’t afford it,” Gov.-elect Dan Malloy said Wednesday, referring to projected $48.3 million annual loss Connecticut faces according to a 2009 study by the University of Tennessee. “My administration is looking at that (challenge) very seriously.” Continue Reading →

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New state health commissioner: Not more with less, but ‘differently’ with less

People who work with Dr. Jewel Mullen at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health remember her first day on the job in 2008 as one that brought more than a new boss. “The day Jewel started, we always joke that as she drove up from Connecticut or wherever she was, she arrived on the day of major budget cuts,” said Cheryl Bartlett, director of the department’s Division of Prevention and Wellness, one of the sections Mullen oversees as director of the Bureau of Community Health and Prevention. “She had to jump right in.” Dr. Jewel Mullen
It’s an experience that could prove useful for Mullen, Gov.-elect Dan Malloy’s pick to lead the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Malloy has not signaled any intention to cut the health department’s budget, and has spoken about the need for a more robust public health system and a desire to beef up the state’s efforts to prevent tobacco use and lead paint exposure in children. Continue Reading →

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UConn misses out on $100 million federal hospital grant

A $100 million federal hospital construction grant once believed to be earmarked for Connecticut was awarded to Ohio State University Wednesday, leaving the state $100 million short in its quest to renovate and expand the UConn Health Center’s John Dempsey Hospital. The money was considered key to a $362 million plan intended to secure the long-term future of the Farmington hospital. U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd got the grant inserted in the health reform law last year amid accusations that it was an earmark. But it proved to be anything but. In the past, UConn officials have said they could consider philanthropy and other grants if the $100 million federal grant did not come through. Continue Reading →

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House Dems name new chairs for key budget committees

As Connecticut heads into the worst budget session in history, House Democrats announced Wednesday new leadership for their two top budget-writing committees. “We have the basis for a terrific team,” said House Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey of Hamden. The House chairmanships of the Appropriations and the Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees became vacant following Rep. Cameron C. Staples’ decision not to run for reelection and Rep. John C. Geragosian’s being named a state auditor for public accounts Tuesday. “The good news is they are being replaced by wonderful new leaders,” said House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan of Meriden. Continue Reading →

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Sullivan returns to state government as tax chief

Gov.-elect Dan Malloy tapped West Hartford Democrat Kevin B. Sullivan, a former longtime state Senate leader and lieutenant governor, to lead the state’s tax agency. Sullivan, 61, will assume control of the Department of Revenue Services as the new Malloy administration prepares to address what effectively amounts to the largest budget shortfall in state history–a gap Malloy concedes cannot be closed without tax hikes. “I’ve known Kevin for years and while he’s no longer a public official, that’s never stopped his commitment to public service,” Malloy said. “As commissioner, Kevin will draw upon his experiences and relationships born out of his time in the legislature to help Connecticut find new and innovative ways in which to collect the money it is due.” Former senator and lieutenant governor Kevin Sullivan being introduced as Gov.-elect Dan Malloy’s choice for tax chief
The department oversees collection of nearly $13 billion in tax revenues from the General and Transportation funds and processes nearly $1 billion in refunds. Continue Reading →

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State colleges and universities bracing for budget storm

Officials at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities are bracing for another tough budget year as the legislature and new governor grapple with next year’s $3.67 billion deficit. “Public universities are definitely on the firing line,” said Higher Education Commissioner Michael Meotti. “The next several years are going to be the toughest budget years higher education has faced in the last 50 or 60 years.” “We all know cuts are coming. It’s just a matter of how much,” Connecticut State University System Chancellor David G. Carter told a student member of the Board of Trustees at a recent meeting. Continue Reading →

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Malloy, Bradford, appoint state police upper command

Gov.-elect Dan Malloy and his nominee for public safety commissioner, Reuben Bradford, announced two top appointments Wednesday for the upper command within the department. Malloy and Bradford named Danny R. Stebbins to serve as deputy commissioner and colonel of the state police, and Robert Corona as lieutenant colonel and commanding officer of field operations. “Reuben and I have great faith in Danny and Robert, and know that their skills and service will be invaluable to the state police,” Malloy said. I’m looking to Reuben, Danny and Robert to help shape a force and a department that is inclusive, diverse and dedicated to the safety and security of our state’s residents.” Stebbins and Corona were selected because of their extensive backgrounds in field and administrative assignments during a combined 61 years in law enforcement, Bradford said. Continue Reading →

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SustiNet board approves final proposal 7-1

The SustiNet board voted Wednesday on its final recommendations for a health insurance plan that would cover state employees and retirees, Medicaid and HUSKY recipients, and ultimately be sold to municipalities, nonprofits, small businesses and the public. The proposal, which will be submitted to legislators by Jan. 7, calls for creating a quasi-public agency to oversee the SustiNet health plan. The agency would initially be staffed by the state comptroller’s office, but under the proposal, would have its own executive director and staff by 2013. Under the plan, state employees and retirees and people covered by state insurance programs would be joined into one health insurance pool. Continue Reading →

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Connecticut’s senators low on the popularity chart

Connecticut’s two US senators rank near the bottom in home-state net approval ratings among 59 senators in surveys by Public Policy Polling this year. Sen. Joe Lieberman, elected as an independent in 2006, is third from the bottom, with 33 percent approval to 54 percent disapproval, for a net rating of -21. That’s the lowest rating of any of the senators on the list who face re-election in 2012. Democrat Chris Dodd, who is retiring, is one rung up, with 36 percent approval to 52 percent disapproval, for a net of -16. The ranking, based on polls done in the second half of 2010, shows 37 senators with positive approval numbers and 22 percent with negative ratings. Continue Reading →

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Coleman to be Senate judiciary chair

Majority Democrats in the state Senate appointed new leaders Tuesday in 10 of 27 legislative committees, including Eric Coleman of Bloomfield as co-chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee in the 2011 General Assembly session. And with two more chairmanships–those of the committees on children and veterans affairs–still to be named, Senate Democrats could be looking at new leaders on nearly half of their committees as the legislature begins to feel the effects of key lawmakers resigning to join Gov.-elect Dan Malloy’s administration. All legislative committees are joint panels, meaning they have both senators and representatives on their membership rolls, as well as one co-chair from each chamber. The House chairs have not been named yet. Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, who announced the assignments, did not change leadership of the two key budget-writing panels–finance and appropriations–as the legislature prepares to tackle a $3.67 billion budget deficit. Continue Reading →

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Geragosian and Ward named new state auditors

For the first time in nearly two decades, state government will start the year with a new team of fiscal and programmatic watchdogs with Tuesday’s naming of Democrat John C. Geragosian and Republican Robert M. Ward as the auditors of public accounts. Geragosian’s appointment also opens another key position in the legislature: The New Britain lawmaker currently serves as co-chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. Sources said the post will go to veteran Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven. The new auditors, who still must be confirmed by the full legislature, will replace the retiring Robert G. Jaekle and Kevin P. Johnston, who have served as the Republican and Democratic auditors, respectively, since 1993. Though Ward’s endorsement as the new GOP auditor had leaked out earlier this month, Democrats had been relatively quiet over the past month, though Geragosian, an eight-term lawmaker, had been rumored to be the front-runner. Continue Reading →

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Malloy names Farm Bureau head as agriculture commissioner

Gov.-elect Dan Malloy has selected Steven K. Reviczky, who has been the voice for Connecticut’s 5,000 farmers for the last five years at the Capitol, as the state’s commissioner of agriculture. Currently the executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau and a farmer from Coventry himself, Reviczky is versed in the issues facing the state’s agriculture community, including attempts to ban outdoor wood furnaces, regulating water-flow for reservoir owners and the severe drop in the number of dairy farmers in the state. “These are very exciting times for Connecticut farmers,” Reviczky said. “This is all about local farms and local jobs… Government needs to be a partner to make that happen.” Continue Reading →

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Blumenthal aide’s top job: Prepare the boss for a new world

WASHINGTON–In her job as Sen.-elect Richard Blumenthal’s chief of staff, Laurie Rubiner says her first challenge right out of the box will be this: helping her new boss move from a world of lawsuits and subpoenas to one of filibusters and gridlock. Laurie Rubiner: Sen-elect Blumenthal faces ‘a big transition’
Blumenthal, a Democrat elected to succeed retiring Sen. Chris Dodd, has been a “take-charge, take-action” kind of politician who, in his two decades as Connecticut’s attorney general, is used to getting “quick results,” she noted. “It’s harder to do that in the Senate,” Rubiner said. “It’s a lot of obstructionism… and it can be frustrating.” Continue Reading →

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